One of my favorite parts of our trip to France was our day in Normandy. We took the early train from Paris and got picked up at the train station by our tour guide. It was well worth the cost of a tour guide because we would have had to rent a car to get around town. Plus, the amount of information we learned was much more than we could have covered ourselves.
We started at the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église. The church in the center of town is where a paratrooper got caught on the spire of the church and pretended to be dead for several hours. There is still a “paratrooper” hanging from the church today.
You can see bullet holes in the side of the church.
When we went to Utah Beach, it was a chilly and windy day. I assumed it would have been much warmer in June, but it was actually a little cooler during the invasion than what we experienced. I was ready to get off the beach and warm up, so I can’t imagine being in the water.
Driving around town, it was remarkable to see how much is still exactly like it was during the war. Fencing and barbed wire that was put up during the war is still up today around farms and homes. Our tour guide also mentioned that her house has multiple bullet holes from snipers.
We stopped at a church that dates back to the 11th century.
This church was used as a hospital during the war and blood stains are still visible on the pews.
This was right outside the church and was used as a temporary burial spot for soldiers that passed away. After the war, they were moved to the official cemetery, but the plot has never been covered.
We stopped at a second church that was “newer”, 14th century I believe. The stained glass windows pay tribute to the paratroopers that were part of the invasion.
We saw Pointe de Huc, where the American Rangers were dropped off and had to scale the cliffs. I believe the tour guide said they had to scale the cliff in 90 seconds. Staring down from the top, that seems impossible, especially when you think most of them were young kids.
Walking along Omaha Beach, you can still see where bombs struck the ground and German bunkers were broke up.
We went into one of the German bunkers that was still intact. It took them months to build these bunkers and they weren’t done with all of them when the invasion took place. We would see them driving throughout town. That was one of the most interesting parts of the trip, seeing how much is still the same as it was on that day.
Our last stop was the American Cemetery. This was sobering to see the endless sight of crosses; they stretched on and on.
If you can see the dates on the Roosevelt graves, one was 1945 and the other 1918. Quentin was moved and buried by Theodore after the American Cemetery was established.
I’ve read so much history about World War II that it was incredible to see it first hand, where it actually happened. I did have a little bit of a tough time being there, though. I talked to Pop and Granddad many times about the war and what their experiences were like. I would have loved to tell them about it and ask more questions.